Happy National Wildlife Week. We're going to talk about one of America's cutest wildlife species, the sea otter.

Everybody's familiar with sea otters. They're marine mammals that live on the pacific coast from California all the way up through the pacific northwest and into Alaska, and they float on their backs on the water. They hold hands so they don't float away. Really really cute animals.

But they're also really ecologically important. They help keep animals like sea urchins in check. If the sea urchins are overpopulated, they'll eat all the kelp that lots of other animals rely on.

And they are so important. They do so much good. You can see them sometimes laying on their back with a stone and they'll have abalone on their chest or a sea urchin that you just mentioned and they'll crack it open and then consume it.

They were harvested terribly for years and years and their populations almost completely disappeared. They're protected now, southern California up to mid California. They're coming back rather nicely.

If you really like to see them up close and personal, Monterey Bay has an entire group of otters that lay about 500 feet off the shore where you can get a good look at them. Some of these were actually part of the Valdez oil spill and they have been saved and released back to the wild.

And it's a really good reminder that some animals, you know, you might actually be able to get up pretty close to but as always you want to keep wildlife wild. They're not our pets so never try to get near a sea otter or any animal for that matter in the wild. Don't try to pet it, don't try to feed it. Let them be wild and they'll thrive and be happy and so will you.

And that's really what National Wildlife Week is all about. It's about celebrating our wild neighbors and making sure they have habitat too.

So I hope everybody goes right now and takes the National Wildlife Week pledge.

Updated on May 29, 2024

Protecting Our Sea Otters

Sea otters are cute and they’re also very important to the ecosystem! Find out why in this National Wildlife Week video with David Mizejewski and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom host Peter Gros.

Climate change has had a devastating impact on the kelp forests off the coast of California.  Enter our hero — the sea otter. With their steady diet of sea urchins, sea otters build climate resilience for this threatened ocean ecosystem as their numbers continue to be threatened primarily by sharks. You’ll hear much more in our new series, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild. Learn more here.

Click here to discover more great animal stories.

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